Meet Margot & Marion Witz of Elizabeth Grant International
2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award Finalists
Margot & Marion Witz
Elizabeth Grant International
Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award Finalist
For mother and daughter duo, Marion and Margot, the beauty business was a natural choice. Elizabeth Grant (the mother of the former and grandmother of the latter) is the original founder of the luxury skincare company Elizabeth Grant International. Now, the three women work side-by-side. A successful international beauty brand, Elizabeth Grant Skin Care boasts an A-list following, with fans such as J.Lo, Blake Lively, Rosario Dawson, and Petra Nemcova, among others.
My first job ever was…
Margot – I was a Camp Counsellor at Camp Wahanowin. My first job in the city was as a secretary for my dad. I was 15 for both.
Marion – I started working while still at school when I was 12 – far below the working age but I looked much older and needed money. My first job was at Woolworths in South Africa. I started in women’s clothing, then worked at the candy counter, graduated to the grocery checkout, operated the elevators, was promoted to switchboard operator and ended up as a filing clerk. My first real job was teaching History and English to High School students.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because…
Margot – I became an entrepreneur because I had the passion inside of me to do something different, and I was used to my voice being silenced. For me, being an entrepreneur allowed me to have a seat at the table, without having to ask permission for it.
Marion – I decided to become an entrepreneur because it was time. I worked with my husband helping him build his business and after 20 years I knew it was time for me to do it for myself. The opportunity presented itself and I seized the moment.
My proudest accomplishment is…
Margot – My work with LGFB. There was a time I was their youngest board member, and they were having a deficit. One of the years I was on the board, my dad was diagnosed with Cancer, and I was awake all night just wondering how I could help. I started The Big Give, which was a charity party that 100% of proceeds were donated back to LGFB on the condition it went to the workshops that were having the most financial strain. No one believed the party was going to be successful, but the first year on a Tuesday night, I had 550 people, $20,000. The second was a Wednesday night 650 people, $80,000. The third and so far final, was over 1000 people and over $100,000 was raised. The Big Give was to me the little engine that could, and 5 years after its finale, I am still asked when the next one is.
Marion – how the success of Elizabeth Grant has positively impacted the lives of the people who work for the company.
My boldest move to date was…
Margot – Joining Elizabeth Grant Skin Care. I was originally a high school English teacher. A lot of people may not realize how difficult it is to work in a family business, a) you never leave work and b) never really have time off. But the harder aspect is earning respect from your colleagues, ensuring your team values your work and that you earn the right to be there vs just there because of nepotism.
Marion – Leaving my steady job with my husband and starting Elizabeth Grant International Inc.
I surprise people when I tell them…
Margot – That I am a “Living Infomercial”. It’s a fun icebreaker with people who I have never met before, and an unexpected surprise to most “What do you do” conversations.
Marion – I’ve authored 2 books – Stand Up and Talk to 1000 People, and Enjoy It! And Elizabeth Grant – My Life – My Story and that I love knitting.
“Success to me is not merely a personal accomplishment – it’s being able to know that I have helped guide people around me achieve their goals and improve their positions.”
My best advice to people looking to grow their business is…
Margot – I have two pieces of advice: 1) do a SWOT analysis on yourself and your idea, learn the ins and outs about the risks and rewards of where your next step or opportunity can lead you, and after doing so, ask yourself: is it worth it? 2) Do not let anyone plant “a seed of doubt” in your mind. There will always be people in your life who want to give you advice on why something won’t work, or how something can be better, but unless they are in the trenches with you, it’s easy to give advice on what they would do, even if you didn’t ask.
Marion – Growing a business always requires capital – therefore it is critical to establish a good relationship with your bank. As banks require a good set of records my best advice is to employ a solid Financial Officer.
My biggest setback was…
Margot – Feb 2016, when we almost lost the business
Marion – Feb 2016 when I almost lost the business
I overcame it by…
Margot – By open and honest communication with my staff. It’s one thing to restructure, and to get the finances in order, but it’s another to reduce any fear or “seeds of doubt” with remaining staff. I sat down and explained to each and every staff member individually what was going on, and also allowed them to have a conversation with me about any concerns they may have internally. I truly believe respect, honesty, time and communication lead to trust, and having incredible staff around me knowing that had job security was imperative. I knew we would turn the ship around, but if we didn’t have a team at the end of the rough waters, it could have led to a different challenge.
- Recapitalized the company improving and balancing the debt ratio
- Improvement of gross profit – focused on reducing COG
- Introduced a procurement department
- Reduced permanent staff and hired from Agency when needed
- Required Heads of depts to become more accountable
If I had an extra hour in the day I would…
Margot – Focus on how customers are changing how they are shopping and being able to enhance /tweak what we are currently doing to improve our customer experience. In terms of the web and mobile applications, I would try to enhance the UI and UX. Finally, finding more of our customer forums via third parties to engage with customer questions and their experiences (I monitor these groups A LOT.)
Marion – Do more research.
I stay inspired by…
Margot – My mother and my grandmother. These women are amazing in different ways, but they are so smart, experienced and passionate. More so, they are constantly redefining the world around them. My grandmother, the namesake of our brand, changed her narrative 70 years ago, my mother changed her narrative 21 years ago. It’s an unbelievable inspiration and education to know the power is in your hands to not only live the life you want to live, but to know the only person who can stop you, is yourself.
Marion – Attending seminars and always striving to be better.
The future excites me because…
Margot – The future is exciting not because of the technological advancements, but because we have options. Knowledge is actually celebrated, women are encouraged, and we are becoming smarter in our global choices. If the future could be described in any way it would be: open and positive.
Marion – the company has turned around. I am excited by where Margot and her team will take it.
Success to me means…
Margot – giving myself a strong foundation and opportunity of happiness. Monetary success comes and goes, but allowing yourself to add a strong foundation to living your best life means you are successful. Everyone’s wants and desires are different, and their definition of a strong foundation is different but for me, if I am not happy (and healthy) no amount of finances can curate a successful life. Also my customers, not in sales to them, but in connection to them. I have this whole network of people who I have never met in person, but online and on Instagram, we genuinely have a relationship, and it’s internationally. It’s amazing to me, that regardless of geography, language or age, I know about their lives, their family, their struggles, and their joy. The fact that people trust me enough to take the time to forge a relationship is truly humbling.
Marion – Success to me is not merely a personal accomplishment – it’s being able to know that I have helped guide people around me achieve their goals and improve their positions.